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Whistleblowers who are public employees are protected by statutes which vary in scope and character, but authorise employees to disclose information outside of the chain of command and under standards that replace internal agency rules or guidelines. During the last decade a number of countries enacted whistleblower statutes that protect public employees who disclose various types of misconduct or incompetence. At the same time, a number of international treaties and conventions addressing governmental corruption have included provisions protecting whistleblowers. The recent activity in providing protection for public sector whistleblowers as well as movements for honesty and transparency in government present a challenge to public employment law.

This chapter examines how the principles and precepts of whistleblower protection challenge public employment law. Beginning with an analysis of the federal whistleblower law in the United States, particularly the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, the chapter provides a background and review of this law which guides the subsequent analysis. The established themes address concepts of employee loyalty, approval of individual responsibility in the face of hierarchical command, connection to information policy and access to government information, and empowerment of the right of freedom of expression as an underpinning of democratic accountability. These themes are developed in a review of state provisions protecting public sector whistleblowers as well as through comparisons of the whistleblower laws of other countries. This comparison emphasises the many common themes as well as their similar implications for public employment law. The chapter considers how the principles and precepts of whistleblower protection challenge public employment law and concludes with a discussion of how whistleblower protection ironically poses perhaps a challenge to the very notion of a distinct public and private employment law.



Publication Date


Book Title

Public Sector Employment in the Twenty-First Century


ANU E Press


whistleblower, public employment law


Comparative and Foreign Law | Labor and Employment Law | Law

Whistleblower Protection and the Challenge to Public Employment Law